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As long as she has her sea legs and stays out of the kitchen, our columnist is A-OK.

Fran LoBiondo
by Fran LoBiondo

We had three days of feasting with family last week, and I’ve got the scars to prove it. My right thumb is one line of burn scars from knuckle to cuticle, but that’s because I’m a klutz.

I was only a contributing chef for two of the meals, but managed to hit the hot surfaces of the oven multiple times. I burned myself while loading a tray of mashed potatoes. It was so hot, I burned a third-degree hole in my knuckle, which I kept hitting until it blistered. Later, while I checked the bird for doneness, the flesh between two knuckles seared onto the pan, causing me to dance the cucaracha, spewing profanities in front of my grandson, Ben. His eyes got pretty wide.

When it was time to eat, we called everyone upstairs from the basement playroom. Ben came up first, but stopped and blocked the door with his body, causing a traffic jam on the lower steps.

“Ben, what are you doing?” said his father, who was hungry.

“I want a chalky chip cookie.”

“No, Bennie, we’re walking up to eat dinner.”

“But, but, but, it makes my tummy happy!”

“So does pizza,” Daddy growled.

“But it makes me grow big and strong!” Ben flexed his little biceps.

He held his family hostage until the negotiator brokered a deal for a chalky chip cookie after dinner. Then three grown-ups grabbed him up and out.

Sometimes, he’s like a comedian, entertaining us with bold chatter, until we look at each other and laugh: “How much guff is Daddy gonna take?”

Watching Ben grow has given me pleasure. One visit he’s crochety if he doesn’t get his way, but then four weeks later he sits peacefully at a restaurant until we’re all finished eating.

Ok, so onto Christmas. We did not get to party on Ben’s birthday due to the COVID-19 virus, but we had a cake on vacation. And because my daughter cannot seem to stop buying presents for him, he won’t know he missed anything.

I cannot wait to gather my own kids together on Christmas Eve. We usually attend the family Mass at 4, then gather for pizza, caramel buns and coffee before bedtime.

The next day is a food fest no matter whose home it’s in, whether it’s with the Sheehans or the LoBiondos.

Greg met me this morning with an ornament in his hand.

“I need help with the Christmas,” he said. It really did not take much time because he’d already decorated the tree, the walls and the windows. And, of course, the silver bells. He hung those from the doorway in a pretty line, but they need a little polish. Greg and I will do that. He likes to help me bake cookies and deck the halls.

Our daughter came home from college with two walking sticks and a cane. Gifts for Mom. I now have a lack of balance in my legs and took a physical therapy class to practice posture and walking upright.

I don’t see a big problem, but my family worries about my falling down in public. I never find an uneven surface on which I feel secure. When I fall down, I always hope nobody saw me.

Well, that’s futile.

Who watches a grown woman pitch forward and face-plant onto a parking lot, and doesn’t wonder about her sobriety?

I’m sure that happens to everyone once or twice.

One day last year, we took a day trip to Ocean City. I sat under an umbrella most of my time there so as not to sear like a beached manatee under the sun.

The beach was crowded as I stood in shallow water, watching Greg swim. I sank deeper into the soft sand, and then WHAP! a hurricane-force wave knocked me sideways. And down.

It was like that Brooklyn Kew Gardens movie where 100 neighbors watched me fall and heard me gurgle to my death, but nobody ran out to help.

Maybe I’ll get my sea legs back soon. Maybe I won’t.

I’m going to be practicing my steps until past Christmas. Pray for me.

Life Sentences